Wunderbar Vienna!

In an attempt to curb the dreariness of the winter season (we haven’t seen the sun in 2 weeks!), Russ and I planned a long-weekend trip to Vienna.  The prospect of the trip was even more exciting because we were meeting up with Alyssa, a good college friend of mine who is now living in Vienna.

We started our 6 hour journey on Friday morning and made it to Vienna around 5 pm.  Our hotel was right on the Danube river, so we enjoyed an excellent view and relaxed until meeting Alyssa and Pirmin for an excellent night of home-cooked Austrian cuisine, wine, and great conversation.

Overlooking the Danube River in Vienna

We met again with Alyssa on Saturday morning, and she was nice enough to show us around Vienna, pointing out her favorite buildings and places to study or hang out.  We started at the Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is an important figure in Viennese history, as its massive stature helped to attract people to what was originally a small town.  St. Stephen’s suffered during WWII, as Vienna was a bridge between the Nazis and the Soviets.  What stood out for me on the interior was the lack of intricate stained-glass throughout the church; unfortunately, though it did exist at one time, it was blown out in a fire during the Allied bombing and has been replaced with glass that is much less impressive. Nonetheless, the church is still impressive with a colorfully designed roof and the largest spire in the old Austro-Hungarian empire.

Stephansdom

St. Stephen's Intricate Roof

Another Roof Shot

One of the Spires

After seeing the cathedral, we walked around and generally enjoyed the architecture of the city.  Alyssa took us to the library, the Parliament, and a café where we sipped delicious Viennese coffee concoctions.

Exploring Vienna

Beautiful Buildings

Vienna

Cafe Central, where we enjoyed a mid-morning cup o' joe

The MASSIVE city library

Lauren and Alyssa in front of the library

Parliament

Russ and Lauren in front of the Parliament Building

Alyssa also took us to the University of Vienna.  The buildings on campus are so beautiful and have such an air of grandeur; I can hardly imagine anyone being a student there!  It’s more than a bit impressive and even a little daunting walking into an institution as old and grand as the University.

University of Vienna--Looking up toward the philosophy department

Feeling smarter already

University of Vienna

Courtyard at the University

The courtyard walls--lined with busts of important figures in the University's history

We left Alyssa after lunch (:( ) and went to the Opera House.  The Opera House is truly elaborate and beautiful, despite the fact that it was critically received so badly that the original architect committed suicide.  Though the tour was pretty short and somewhat more of an advertisement for the upcoming performance of  Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” we enjoyed the sampling of history we received and the overall ambiance of old glamour (All the women wearing fur coats on the streets of Vienna contributed to this significantly!).

Opera House

Inside the Opera House

The Auditorium

Balcony Seating

Opera House Opulence

In the late afternoon, we spent some time at the Haus der Musik, exploring the history of the Vienna Philharmonic as well as reacquainting ourselves with the history of the famous Austrian composers Mozart, Haydn, Mahler,  and Strauss.  The museum is also interactive, so we experimented with manipulating sound in various ways.  It’s definitely a place where you could spend a lot of time, but we needed dinner and to get to a concert so we didn’t hit every interactive kiosk.

We created a Waltz by throwing dice

Yep, here I am in Vienna, the city of classical music, listening to...farting noises.

After dinner we headed to our concert.  You just can’t go to Vienna without hearing some sort of music!  I was super pumped about this one, a performance of Mozart’s “Requiem” inside one of the most unique and beautiful churches we’ve seen, Karlskirche.  St Charles’ Church is flanked by gigantic, intricate columns on the outside, evidence of the Baroque era.  Interestingly, the church was built to honor a bishop who was inspirational during the time when the Plague hit Vienna.  The church also has a museum dedicated to him (Charles Borromeo).  We skipped the museum, but enjoyed every moment of the concert.  The voices of the choir and the timbre of the period instruments matched perfectly, and it was especially moving to hear their sound resonate in such a beautiful setting.

Karlskirche in Daylight

An Intricate Column of Charles' Church

Closer Up

Karlskirche at Night

St. Charles' Church

Inside the Church--marble, gold, and fresco

Looking Back Toward the Organ

Unfortunately we had to leave Vienna on Sunday, despite so much more that we would have liked to explore.  However, we did get to visit the most famous palace on our way out of the city, Palace Schönbrünn, home of the Habsburgs.  Though no pictures were allowed inside, we toured about 40 rooms.  The tours they provide are via audio, so I walked around with a handheld device up to my ear, learning about the history of each room.  Russ chuckled (or perhaps scoffed) at the large presence of silent visitors with devices held to their ears, all of whom couldn’t manage to navigate the rooms without running into one another.  I couldn’t blame him for noting the oddness of it all, but I wanted to know the history.

The Expansive Palace Schönbrünn

The Palace

Palace Shönbrünn, from the back

Palace Gardens

The gardens are massive, though not so nice looking mid-winter, and hold various attractions.  The Gloriette, the big monument at the top of the hill, provides a nice view over the palace and Vienna.  Also in the gardens is the oldest zoo in Europe which was built in 1752 by Maria Theresa’s husband in an effort to educate the court.  I think the zoo would have been interesting, but we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us.

 

The Gloriette

Schönbrünn Palace and Vienna

We had a wonderful whirlwind time in Vienna, in large part thanks to our friends, Alyssa and Pirmin.  Thanks you guys!  Even though we loved Vienna and drove into snow on our way back to Heidenheim, we were glad to be back.  Our sneakers and sporty coats are just no match for Vienna’s high-fashion fur coats and high heels. 🙂

To see more pictures from our time in Vienna:

http://rlabarca.smugmug.com/Travel/Vienna-Feb-2011/

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mom on February 24, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for another wonderful blog entry. The pics are beautiful; it makes me sad that we missed Vienna. Love the picture of you and Alyssa.

    Reply

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